Cuomo challenges storage of tank cars in Adirondacks

Tank cars
Tank cars on tracks near the Boreas River in the central Adirondacks. Photo by Brendan Wiltse

Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to file a petition with the federal Surface Transportation Board to force a rail company to remove empty oil-tanker cars stored on tracks in the central Adirondacks.

“The Adirondack Park is home to some of the world’s most pristine forest lands, which powers its tourism economy, and we will not stand by and allow it to be used as a commercial dumping ground,” Cuomo said in a news release.

Iowa Pacific Holdings, which operates the rail line, has brought in about seventy-five tank cars since mid-October. They are stored on sidings near the Boreas River in Minerva and near the Opalescent River in Tahawus.

The petition will ask the Surface Transportation Board, which adjudicates railroad disputes, to force Iowa Pacific Holdings to stop bringing in cars for storage and to remove those already there.

Iowa Pacific reportedly receives $4 a day for each car it stores on the line.

Most of the cars are owned by the United Tank Car Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the company of billionaire Warren Buffett. The Adirondack Council and a thousand of its supports recently sent emails and letters to Buffett urging him to remove the tank cars. The state is now pressing Buffett as well.

The Explorer’s numerous calls to Berkshire Hathaway in recent weeks have gone unanswered.

John Sheehan, a spokesman for the council, said the organization is pleased with the state’s action. “We believe the state is on firm legal footing to make the demands it is making today,” he said.

Iowa Pacific owns a long-term easement on the line, which runs thirty miles from North Creek to an old mine at Tahawus. The company intended to haul waste rock from the mine, but it has not been able to make the venture profitable.

Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific, has said he may store up to two thousand out-of-service cars on the line. He says the cars will be emptied and cleaned and pose no harm to the environment.

Environmental groups have described the storage operation as a junkyard.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, argues that storing cars on the line may violate the terms of the easement.

Iowa Pacific also owns the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, which runs a tourist train between Saratoga Springs and North Creek.

Click the links below to read the state’s preliminary petition and a letter to Iowa Pacific’s lawyer, David Michaud.

STB petition



About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

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